Free Information vs Information Protectionism

Francois-Rene Rideau Francois-Rene Rideau <>
Sat, 2 Jun 2001 02:43:50 +0200

On Fri, Jun 01, 2001 at 05:26:07PM +1200, Paul Foley wrote:
>>> See Bastiat's arguments on private property, rent, and interest;
>>> they apply perfectly to the issue of copyright.
>> That's begging the question. They would apply perfectly to copyright
>> if copyright was property. His arguments against protectionism would [...]
> But he goes on at some length making the argument about what *is*
> property; this is the argument that I'm saying applies to copyright.
Reading the text with your comment, I don't find your demonstration
convincing; I could still apply Bastiat's arguments against protectionism
in just the same way. You still beg the question that someone who writes
a book or program is selling more than his development time, just like
the plumber or the haircutter sells his services.

>>> How can the market decide if you take steps to force the value to zero?
>> The value is not forced to zero.
>> Proof is people actually buy and sell CDs of free software.
> How is that a proof that the value's not zero?  People buy water from
> Bastiat's water-seller, too; water which Bastiat claims has no value
> ad infinitum.
Right. I guess my point was that market mechanisms were still functioning
to give value to things; but I see that this is beside the point.
The point is whether force is used or not. Not even.
The point is which side is entitled defensive use of force,
and which side is the aggressor.

>> So what? Once that it's known that the Company of Indies trades with India,
>> you cannot invent trade with India anymore; you can but copy the Company
>> of Indies.
> I've already stated that I don't consider "trade with India" a
> "result", so this is a straw man.
This isn't meant as a straw man. This is meant a pressing request
so that you express a criteria that be not ad-hoc
that would explain why one is a "result" and the other isn't.

> Note: you can't "copy" the company
> without expending equivalent effort -- you can't just wave a magic
> wand and make your own company (complete with ships, etc.), spring up
> out of thin air.  If you could, the value of the original company
> would be zero.  Now you're going to think I'm talking about ease again...
Exactly. This would be the typical protectionist argument:
"since my activity doesn't provide me enough value for my taste,
I demand that government artificially should raise that value
by giving me a monopoly."

> writing the software (thus saving you from having to write it)
> is the service
The time you originally write and publish the software,
it sure is, for otherwise I'd have to write it myself;
and you presumably got paid for it accordingly.
But if the software already exists and I can already have a copy
from someone else, it's hardly a service you're providing me anymore,
and requiring that I pay a license is but a racket.
Sure, if you can find customers willing to pay for something that
demands you no work, it's your and their business.
Just don't come crying if competition outsells you with cheap copies.

> [...] Someone siphons off his container (which is
> not stealing; the water has no value, after all),
Stealing is not defined in terms of value,
but in terms of depriving other people from property.
As for the evaluating damages, the water presumably did acquire value
from the carrier's work, which would be the whole point of carrying it
from a place where it's abundant to a place where it isn't.

>> And value isn't what we try to maximize. Utility is.
> From the "consumer" point of view, maybe;
> from the "producer" point of view, you want to maximize value.
About the opposition between these points of view,
see this favorite short piece of mine: Ch.1, Abundance and Scarcity
Or the longer chapter 11 of the Economic Harmonies, "Producer and Consumer":

> Progress tends to decrease value.  That's not at all the same thing as
> you're claiming (p->q is not the same as q->p).
Sorry for my poor wording, I didn't mean to assert that any decrease
of value implies progress; what I meant was that progress ultimately
implies decrease in value (because people work less and are more idle).
So that your complaints of a decrease in value isn't a valid argument
to claim that anything is wrong about removing copyrights;
it's but the typical protectionist argument of wanting more work,
instead of more results.

>> Ok, so if your final argument isn't
>> "copying is forbidden because it's too easy",
>> what was the point of your monkey theorem?
> The point was that what each person (note: they're people, not
> monkeys) produces is *not* the same as what Shakespeare produced.
Hence the utility of a copy, which is a much more reliable way
of getting a Shakespeare work in a decent time.

> This implies that there's something more involved in the text they do
> produce than just the "idea" of the story (which they all share).
There sure is more to a play than its synopsys; no one's denying that.
That doesn't mean either the synopsys or the play should be protected.

> Perhaps this "something more" is what copyright can validly apply to.
You'll have to argue it.

[ François-René ÐVB Rideau | Reflection&Cybernethics | ]
[  TUNES project for a Free Reflective Computing System  |  ]
Reason isn't about lack of a priori's, but presence of a posteriori's.
		-- Faré